Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Detour Number Two – The Apartment Near Campus

In the spring of 1974, my best friend and I decided to stay in New Haven for the summer and to live off-campus for senior year. When I was seated next to him at Jonathan Edward College’s junior dinner, former Mayor Dick Lee had casually offered to land me a summer job, and I took him up on the offer. I found myself employed as a model maker at Roche-Dinkeloo Architects just over the border in Hamden. MAJ found a position at the hospital and we scoured the listings for apartments adjacent to the liberal arts portion of the campus.

We found our place – the second floor of a three-story brick building on the ambulance route to Yale-New Haven Hospital, but cheap and very near the places we needed to be. We were sandwiched in between a couple on the first floor who engaged in nightly screaming matches and a pair of female grad students on the third, one of whom paced constantly and talked loudly to herself, about very unusual things. She would become the famous one — Meryl Streep was rehearsing her lines above our heads.

All summer I packed a lunch and rode my bike to work. We had no air-conditioning so MAJ and I walked to the mall on Thursday nights (late night shopping night) to get cool. On other hot nights of the week, we might duck into Partners, the gay bar diagonally across from our apartment, with cheap drinks, music we enjoyed and a safe environment as long as we stuck together. A person we came to know as “the friendly hippie” was often sitting on his stoop in the next block of buildings and he watched over our comings and goings throughout all the seasons we lived on Park Street. He is still around, with much less hair, a respected member of one of the churches on the green, and I know him today by his given name, “Robbie.”

For the entire year we lived very frugally. (I think each of us was being paid $2.50/hr. And I recall that rent was $220/mo. or $110/mo. each.) We made our own yogurt. We got a toaster oven with green stamps donated by MAJ’s mother. Each of us purchased our own groceries – what we could carry home a bag at a time from the urban supermarket a block away (Bags were much larger and made of paper without handles.) My staples were cereal, cheese, tomato soup, canned tuna, peanut butter and jelly, oatmeal bread, spaghetti, sauce from a jar, fruit, milk and orange juice. I threw away a lot of cans, but no food was wasted.

When we moved out after graduation, we kept the trash to a minimum and took all our unwanted clothes and many other items to the Salvation Army store up the street.

As a segue to the next post I should add that little did I know when I embarked on this great adventure, that the first summer I chose not to return to my family in Massachusetts would be the summer I would meet my future husband at work. And that New Haven would become my home.